The IBM Ready Pack for Cloud Gives SMBs the Confidence They Need to Deploy the Private Cloud Infrastructure They Want

Private cloud-based infrastructures are becoming a priority for almost every small and midsize business (SMB) as they deliver levels of flexibility, scalability and value that traditional IT architectures simply do not provide. But many of these cloud solutions are still immature and implementing the wrong one may be worse than having no cloud solution at all. The IBM Ready Pack for Cloud changes that by addressing today’s SMB concerns while positioning them for tomorrow’s requirements.

The limitations of today’s IT infrastructures when used in virtual environments are becoming more well-known. Cator, Ruma & Associates, Co, a consulting engineering firm with 100 employees, characterized its struggles with the IT infrastructure that it used to support its virtual servers. Challenges it faced included:

  • Business-crippling downtime. Operating system and hardware outages caused a ripple effect in its virtualized environment.
  • Capacity constrained. Inflexibility precluded Cator from scaling in ways that its virtual servers needed.
  • Had to prematurely overbuy. Inability to scale led Cator to overbuy hardware resources in anticipation of forecasted needs.
  • Limited data protection functionality. Traditional approaches to data protection degrade in virtualized environments.
  • Minimal ability to manage its infrastructure. New levels of visibility and control were needed to appropriately manage its new virtual environment.
  • Partitioning and expanding storage extremely difficult. Virtual environments are at odds with how storage is traditionally provisioned and allocated.

Reasons like these are why Cator, Ruma & Associates and other SMBs are making private cloud-based infrastructures a priority. From a business perspective, they minimize capital expenses while lowering the ongoing operational expenses associated with existing IT infrastructure approaches.

The technical arguments for private cloud-based infrastructures are equally compelling. The freedom to add capacity as needed facilitates the addition of new resources without potentially painful upgrades or lengthy data migrations. Now resources are simply installed and allocated when needed.

Management issues also begin to dissipate as this new private cloud infrastructure creates a single pane of glass for managing the environment. Rather than have to access a multiple applications or website portal to manage individual components, one console does it all.

This makes the allure of adopting a private cloud-based infrastructure great. Yet what gives SMBs pause are the practical realities of implementing and managing a new technology. They want the benefits of the cloud but their main objective is still to manage their business, not managing the IT infrastructure on which their business depends.

Fundamental questions they yet have about private cloud-based infrastructure adoption include:

  • How affordable is it?
  • How reliable is it?
  • How well can the vendor support it?
  • How well tested are the servers, storage and virtualization software that make it up?

It is this gap between putting in place a solution that meets tomorrow’s needs, while answering these basic SMB questions, which the IBM Ready Pack for Cloud addresses. By implementing the Ready Pack for Cloud, SMBs do more than jump start their own private cloud initiatives. They also get the back end reliability and support they need to run their business.

To accomplish this, the IBM Ready Pack for Cloud includes by default, components that are proven and known to work reliably. For instance, the Ready Pack for Cloud uses the IBM DS3500 as its standard storage system. The DS3500 offers eight (8) 6 Gb SAS connections to servers, two controllers for high availability and 24 high performance 300 GB, 10K RPM SAS drives for a total of 7.2 TBs of raw capacity.

On the server side Ready Pack for Cloud uses three (3) IBM System x3650 M3 servers that are each configured with VMware vSphere Essentials Plus. This version of VMware included software features that SMBs are most likely to need to protect and recover their virtualized applications such as:

  • vSphere vMotion which moves a virtual machine (VM) from one physical server to another with no end user impact
  • vSphere HA that restarts a VM after an operating system or hardware failure
  • vSphere Data Recovery that performs disk-based backup and recovery of VMs

Another advantage of the IBM Ready Pack for Cloud is the ability for SMBs to manage both their VMware vSphere VM and the DS3500 storage through vCenter Server. By using IBM’s freely available vCenter plug-in for the DS3500, SMBs may use vCenter Server to perform tasks such as provisioning storage, creating end-to-end views from the VMs to the storage and check on the availability of free and used disk space.

Equally appealing is the price as its MSRP starts around $50,000, which gives SMBs the best of both worlds: the reliable infrastructure they need from a known and trusted technology provider at an initial cost that will not cripple the business financially initially plus it will result in ongoing operational savings.

The IBM Ready Pack for Cloud distinguishes itself in an important way from “box collections” of the past. The Ready Pack for Cloud is an architecture that SMBs can adapt to meet tomorrow’s known and unknown needs. For example, the IBM DS3500 scales up to 192 drives with up to 576 TBs of storage capacity, so an SMB can start as small as it wants (7.2 TBs) and then add as much storage capacity as it needs.

IBM_ReadyPack_ConfigDiagram_Generic_031212.jpgEqually important, drive types may be mixed and matched. Higher capacity but slower 7.2 RPM SAS disk drives may be used to store referential data while higher performing 15K RPM SAS drives may be used to satisfy the performance demands of production applications.

These options give SMBs the flexibility to configure and scale the IBM DS3500 in such a way that as they increase the number of VMs in their environment with differing workloads, the performance on the DS3500 stays the same as a recent analyst report illustrates.

SMBs may even introduce new solid state drives (SSDs). Though more costly, they improve performance by up to 20X or more over today’s fastest hard drives. Further, the IBM DS3500 is the only storage system from the major storage providers that can mix all types of drives in a single tray, resulting in a more compact and cost effective system.

The same holds true on the storage networking side. While the default configuration of the Ready Pack for Cloud includes direct SAS connectivity between the IBM System x Server3650 M3 servers and the IBM DS3500 storage, other connectivity options are also available.

For instance, SMBs may want to use 1 or 10 Gb Ethernet or even 8 Gb FC to connect their IBM servers to the IBM DS3500 storage sy
stem. By using these alternative con
nectivity options, existing physical servers may access the storage on the DS3500, so SMBs can grant these servers access to their new private cloud.

The flexibility of the Ready Pack for Cloud even extends to a choice in hypervisors. While VMware vSphere Essentials Plus is its default configuration, SMBs also have the option to use Microsoft Windows 2008 Hyper-V which may be a better fit for their environment.

The good news for SMBs is that regardless of which mix of these options they decide to use, they are all supported by IBM and the IBM Ready Pack for Cloud. In this way, SMBs get the next-gen private cloud-based infrastructure they want with the stability and reliability they need.

Implementing a private cloud-based infrastructure is an attainable goal for any SMB. But what is different is that by using IBM, they can proceed without feeling like they have to put their business at risk to do so.

IBM Ready Pack for Cloud gives them the framework that they need to get started with a private cloud-based infrastructure. By using known and proven components at its core and the flexibility to configure them in a way that matches their business requirements, entering the cloud just became safe.

But more importantly, they can do so without worrying about the hidden “gotcha’s” that too often accompany next generation technologies. Since IBM has their back and can deliver the reliability and support they need, SMBs get the assurance they can meet, implement and manage this new cloud in such a way that it supports and enables their business without overshadowing it.

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